AOL Europe has secured an exclusive distribution deal for Netscape Online sign up CDs with Kingfisher, as we reported yesterday. In return, Kingfisher will become "the exclusive retailer for electrical and home improvement products" for AOL Europe and Netscape Online, the brand new free ISP. It's a 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' kind of deal -- Dixon's Freeserve represents the biggest threat to AOL in Europe, while Kingfisher and Dixons are arch-rivals on the electrical retailing side. Our guess is that Kingfisher negotiated a very keen price for its dual anchor tenancies. In the rest of Europe, the retail giant building its own Freeserve knock-off (down even to the name -- Libertysurf), in cahoots with French gazillionare Bernaud Arnaut But in the UK, Kingfisher is effectively admitting that it's too late to build its own mass free-ISP brand. Instead it's committed to helping AOL carry the anti-Freeserve candle. Could there be any further tie-ins between Libertysurf and AOL Europe? Interestingly enough, the Netscape Online CDs will only appear in Kingfisher's 789 UK Woolworth stores -- and not in the retail giant's Comet white goods/brown goods/beige goods chain -- Britain's biggest electricals retailer, after Dixons. Presumably, this is a carrot for Kingfisher to dangle at another time. AOL Europe is promoting Netscape Online with ads containing the apocalyptic message 'The N is Nigh' -– dangerous stuff -– nigh for whom, Netscape? AOL Europe? Netscape Online is aimed at the "value-conscious segment of UK DIY -- do it yourself -- Internet users". So why is AOL Europe promoting the service with £60,000 full-page ads in the Financial Times, perhaps the least budget-minded segment of the British population you could find? Maybe the FT ad is a snob thing, or maybe AOL's media buyers have cottoned onto the fact that the "value-conscious segment" applies to just about the entire home Internet users population. Market segmentation by price does not work any more for British consumer Internet access: paid-for subscriptions are dead, and everyone knows it. Even AOL's 600,000 paying UK customers, who would have to be brain dead -- or at best, very, very lazy -- to continue paying a tenner a month, when they could get connected to the Internet for free. You can help cannibalise AOL Europe's business by popping into your local Woolies in the next few weeks. The co-branded Netscape Online/Woolworths CDs won't be too hard to locate –- you'll find them in the multimedia section. You'll know when the stock's in -- there's going to be display boards outside the stores promoting the free software and special display units inside the stores. ® Related Stories LineOne pokes tongues at Netscape Online Free AOL launches under Netscape banner Daily Net finance news from The Register
Freeserve shares fell four pence to 202.5 pence yesterday on the back of an unhelpful Goldman Sachs research note. The investment bank kicked off its coverage of Freeserve, the British template for free ISPs by making it a "Market Performer" rating and has "a downside price target of 200 pence", financial newswire AFX reports. Goldman Sachs said Freeserve needed to justify its current high valuation by focusing on "gaining preferential broadband access, moving further into e-commerce, developing the brand and growing and scaling the organisation". Yes, but isn't Freeserve doing all these things, already? It's going to have to do a lot more than that to make it worth a couple of billion quid, As we've written on several occasions The Register also reckons the Freeserve market cap is too high -- it seems ludicrous for the market to value a non-paying Freeserve customer as the same as a fee-paying cable subscriber. On the upside, Freeserve has huge market presence (but how much more momentum), and very deep pockets, courtesy of its recent IPO. And it can always call on Dixons for off-the-shelf ecommerce anchor tenancies. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
The good people of Los Angeles want an NFL team in their city. And they are bombarding the NFL Commissioner with a mass Web fax petition organised by a local radio station. Techies at the NFL Commission asked Fax4Free.com company supplying the software enabling the mass fax spam, to turn off the taps. Bad move -- for now Fax4Free.com's CEO, Steve Hamerslag, is spinning madly. He refuses to stop the faxing on -- get this -- free speech grounds. "The faxes petitioning for a team in Los Angeles are being sent by the residents of Los Angeles," he says. "Our free Internet fax service is simply the conduit for the people to express their opinions. Typically we are very responsive about any misuse of sending junk faxes through our service. "But this is really a matter of free speech we are dealing with here. Therefore we can not, nor will we, turn off the faxing. In fact, we are delighted that our free Internet fax service empowers people to express their opinions to those that serve the public in this way." What a prick. ®
Hewlett-Packard has announced a swathe of price cuts on its PC workstations, as Intel's lowered chip prices begin to filter through to the US channel. The biggest cut is from the Vectra VL PC, which is now retailing at $1301, down 17 per cent. In return for your cash you get a 500MHz PIII processor, 64MB SDRAM with a 6.4GB Ultra ATA hard drive. The Kayak XA mini-tower has shed 15 per cent of its cost. The system, comprising a 500MHz PIII processor, 128MB SDRAM and a 9.1GB SCSI hard drive, is now retailing for just over $2000. HP says that the price cuts reflect recent reductions from suppliers (mostly Intel's hit back at AMD) as well as savings it has made in its supply chain initiatives. At the time of going to press, HP in the UK was unable to say whether prices would be falling on this side of the pond, but other companies have started putting out rather more attractive prices. Dell is promoting a 500MHz PIII Dimension T500 -- with 128MB SDRAM, 17in monitor, 13.6GB hard drive -- for £799 (ex VAT). ® Related Stories Last week in microprocessors
As reported here last week, Fujitsu and Siemens yesterday made a joint announcement about their combined PC company (see story). The joint venture will be called Fujitsu Siemens and starts trading on 1 October. It will merge the PC divisions of the two companies, but will effectively allow for Siemens' withdrawal from the PC market. Yesterday, the two companies outlined the management team for Fujitsu Siemens. It's board will be: Chairman: Rudi Lamprecht, currently group president Siemens information and communication products. Vice-chairman: Tetsuo Urano, currently president of Fujitsu Europe. Sales and marketing director: Winfried Hoffmann, presently president of Fujitsu Europe. Product and supply director: Robert Hoog, top man at Siemen. CFO: Dr Adrian Hammerstein, who is on the board of the Siemens communication products group. Hoffman said the company would continue to support its channel partners. "They can be assured that we consider them a crucial force in our plans for the future," he said. The European operation plans to grow sales by 25 per cent to over 7.5 billion euros ($7.8 billion), and cut expenses to between three to five per cent of sales, within its first year. The deal will have certain ramifications in the UK. A Fujitsu representative said the two operations of Fujitsu in Bracknell and Siemens in Farnborough would merge into one office. The location has not yet been decided. ®
Former top Ingram Micro employees are flocking back to the distributor now that it is under fresh management. Neville Ebanks, who left Ingram to go to Computer 2000 during the general staff cull instigated by ex-Ingram MD Sandy Scott, recently returned to Ingram as its IBM solutions manager. Lex Wallet, who departed Ingram for CHS Electronics, also during Scott's reign last year, rejoined Ingram this week in his old role of sales manager of components. And Lloyd Pindar is also believed to be looking to return to Ingram after a year's absence. Sources have told The Register that Pindar, ex-Ingram vice president of sales, wants to re-join and has been spotted back in the company's Milton Keynes offices. "I've heard that he wants to re-join Ingram as sales director," said one source. Ingram is currently without a sales director following Terry Martin's recent departure Another said that now Scott was off the scene, staff were starting to make their way back to the distributor. Pindar was sacked last September, ending a ten-year stint at Ingram. Scott was replaced by Meine Oldersma in April. ® Related Stories Ingram goes Dutch with new UK MD Ingram BUM presents a new face to the channel
One of the students accused of cheating via email by Edinburgh University, is taking legal action to clear her name.
One-time 3D graphics wunderkind 3dfx yesterday saw its stock fall 27 per cent as Wall Street reacted to the company's announcement that posted a Q2 2000 loss of $11.5 million. 3dfx reported revenues of $104.8 million for the quarter, ended 31 July, an increase of 175 per cent on last year's $59.8 million. However, that growth failed to cover the company's loss -- itself a marked turnaround from the $9 million profit it posted for the same period last year. For the explanation for that massive shortfall, look no further than 3dfx's acquisition of board maker STB and the ongoing costs of the merger -- expect it to hit the company's Q3 results and possibly Q4. The company also blamed recent price cuts, which kicked in its dealer price protection scheme covering the six to eight weeks' inventory of kit held by 3dfx's resellers. Last quarter, 3dfx lost $12.8 million on revenues of $40.4 million, no great surprise for a post-Christmas quarter and one which bore the brunt of the STB purchase. Once the STB acquisition is done and dusted, however, the access to wider markets it has given to 3dfx should turn the company quickly back to profit -- the quarter's increased year-on-year revenue shows that. Given 3dfx's Voodoo 3 has some significant technological inferiorities compared to rival products -- its lack of 32-bit colour support, for example -- the product line's sales are still strong, which bodes well for the Voodoo 4 (or whatever it's going to be called), due later this year. Voodoo 4 will host 3dfx's T-buffer technology, which the company claims will bring movie-standard special effects to PC game graphics. ® Related Stories 3dfx revives Velocity brand for corporate push nVidia Q2 revenue rockets up 543 per cent ATI Q3 sales up 65 per cent S3 delivers profits boast
AnalysisApple's legal strike against two computer vendors -- Future Power and, just last week, eMachines -- for allegedly ripping off the iMac's styling took me straight back to the early 80s. In that dim, distant and pre-Mac era, Apple regularly sicked its lawyers on computer suppliers -- usually, but not always, Far Eastern ones -- for offering machines with Apple II-style cases. Back then, the issue of stealing the look of a computer was rather more clear cut than it is today. Many cloners used an Apple II case as the template for their own plastic molding work -- literally. Looking at a... well, thanks to Apple's lawyers the offenders' names are long since forgotten, but the point is you couldn't think anything else but 'Apple II' -- the cases were identical. eMachines' eOne, like the Future Power ePower before it, isn't such a close imitation, but it's impossible to look at one without thinking 'iMac'. All three computers sport all-in-one shells designed in two-tone blue and white plastic, a theme that extends to their mice and keyboards. True, the iMac's case is translucent, the eMachines' case transparent and the ePower's plastic opaque, but you can see Apple's point. Designs on the iMac The company's official line is that both eMachines and Future Power could easily have come up with an all-in-one design that didn't look so much like the iMac. Since Apple itself has done so itself on many occasions -- the first Mac, the SE, the Plus, the Classic, the Color Classic, the Performa 5200 et al -- claims from the alleged cloners and others that there's only so many ways you can create a PC with a built-in screen simply don't wash. Nor, frankly, do claims that the ePower, for one, was "based on a totally different concept from the iMac", as a Future Power spokesman put it immediately after Apple fired off its writ against the company. Future Power can argue that since it's machine is a Wintel box, it's totally different from the iMac, but since both machines are aimed at the same buyers in the same sector of the computer market and sold through broadly the same channels... well, you decide just how "totally different" that is. The eMachines guys, meanwhile, can at least say their computer doesn't look quite as much like the iMac as the ePower does. Their line has been that they came up with the design before the iMac was released. Quite possibly, but then failing to deal with the similarity once the iMac had been unveiled, particularly given their choice of colors leaves the company's tact open to question at the very least. Besides, eMachines did itself no favors by allowing a spokesman to get away with saying the company was hoping to trade off the iMac's success. That, at least, is how the statement has been reported, and eMachines has yet to deny that its spokesman said that, probably because it has been feeding stores stocking the eOne with a list of ten points why customers should choose one of the machines instead of an iMac. Not another Wintel machine, you'll note, but an iMac. And don't forget that eMachines is no stranger to this kind of litigation: Compaq slapped a patent infringement suit on the company and its Korean parents, Trigem and Korea Data Systems, last month, alleging the cut-price PC company 13 patents owned by Compaq. The details of the patents are complex, but you can read a summary here. The Big Q's case Compaq will probably have a harder time with its case that Apple will. Proving patent infringement, particularly at such an abstruse technical level, often takes time, and while 'trade dress' law -- how a product looks -- is less well-defined, at least Apple can say that the iMac is so damn distinctive that another machine shipping in anything remotely like it can't help but look like a knock-off. But just because Apple has a case for eMachines and Future Power to answer, does that mean it should force them to do so? Component companies are already offering multi-colored, translucent plastic cases to PC vendors. Iwin, the European hardware company that wants to resurrect the Commodore Business Machines brand for its entry into the Amiga market, has said it will use them too. The point is, there will come a point when translucent, colored computer cases are everywhere and while Apple can say: 'We thought of that first,' it isn't going to be able to do much about it. Then there's precedent. Apple's original PowerBooks arguably set the standard for notebook PC design, and they were duly imitated by almost every portable computing company to the point where Apple really did lose sales. Yet it didn't start firing legal broadsides at its numerous competitors. True, such action would probably have been harder to win, but back then the first PowerBooks weren't much less distinctive than the iMac is now, relative to other products in its class. Future in the balance However, back then Apple's future wasn't hanging on the ongoing success of the PowerBook, and that's not something you can say about Apple circa 1999 and the iMac (and, when it ships, iBook). When Apple sued Microsoft for allegedly ripping off the MacOS, it could afford to lose the case. That action was more about restraining the Gates Gang than ensuring the company's didn't collapse in six months' time (arguably, Windows was always going to make a minority operating systems out of the MacOS since the Intel hardware base was so much wider than Apple's -- an Apple victory would simply have given the company a new revenue stream). The case against eMachines and, to a lesser extent, Future Power, can be seen as a survival issue. It's easy to be blase about how much easier the MacOS is than Windows, and that the iMac is better constructed that the eOne (at least, we hope it is -- just because the iMac is more expensive is no guarantee), but the eOne's $300-plus price advantage, when combined with even vaguely iMac-esque styling will swing some consumers in it favor. eMachines is a threat to traditional PC vendors -- even the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq say so. That means Apple has to fight to protect its sales, and if that means using the law -- whether to win damages and a ban on the eOne and ePower, or simply to limit sales in the short to medium term -- you really can't blame the company for taking action to limit the arrival of hordes of Far Eastern knock-offs to undercut its margins -- just like the good old days, in fact... ® Related Stories Apple taps Gap for iBook colour scheme Apple, Cisco invest in Net content delivery service OS-9 developer set to battle Apple's Mac OS 9 Eclipse update: Apple PR stunt shocks World
As the nation mourns the death of English cricket, The Register has found one nugget of solace in an otherwise cheerless world. On Friday, the new TV home of English cricket Channel 4 teamed up with CricInfo to launch its new cricket Web site. Two and a half days later the fourth and final test ended in humiliation. England don't play again until their winter tour of South Africa. Launching a Web site -- like good comedy -- is all about timing. It don't get funnier or more farcical than this.
Born again biker Andreas Schmidt posed for photographers astride a throbbing Triumph yesterday at the launch of AOL's new subscription-free ISP Netscape Online. Sporting an NO leather jacket and with the number plate "NET1", was the president and CEO of AOL Europe trying to tell us something with his choice of silver dream machine?
The US Court of Appeals has reversed a District Court decision to give domain-name protection to a well-established registered trademark. Avery Dennison, a manufacturer of office products and industrial fasteners with sales in excess of $3 billion, had registered trademarks for Avery in 1963 and Dennison in 1908. It also has the domain name avery.com. Jerry Sumpton of Mailbank, a service that offers vanity email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, had registered avery.net and dennison.net as part of its sfamily name archive. Avery Dennison sued Sumpton and registrar NSI in the District Court for the Central District of California, which gave summary judgement to NSI and Avery Dennison, and entered an injunction ordering Sumpton to transfer the domain names to Avery Dennison for $300 each. Sumpton appealed and won because of the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. Previously, federal law gave protection to the infringement of a registered trademark, while unregistered trademarks were protectable with the law of unfair competition. Trademark dilution had been recognised in many US states, and became federal law in 1995. It is not necessary to establish that there is competition between the parties in a dilution case, whereas previously "passing off" had to be proved. The appellate court unanimously held that Avery Dennison had failed to establish that its marks were "famous", in the sense required by law, because the proof required a greater showing than "mere distinctiveness". Avery Dennison faced the problem that there were several other trademark registrations for "Avery" and "Dennison" in other business sectors, so that the appellate court could not consider that Avery Dennison's trademarks were "famous" in the legal sense. The family name "Avery" is the 775th most common in the US, and Dennison the 1768th (and not at lot of people know that). There were no overlapping channels of trade, it was decided. The decision does not do much to help cybersquatters who register domain names in bad faith. In Mailbank's case, it has registered thousands of family names, and other names, and runs what appears to be a legitimate business licensing the aliases. Tomorrow, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in Santiago, Chile, will be debating what to do about cybersquatters. Denying registration of trademarks to other than the trademark holders would be one possibility, but there are too many complications with such an approach. Meanwhile, there is a bill before the US Senate which could result in fines of up to $100,000 for cybersquatters acting in bad faith. The problem of course will be that, despite some delusions, the US courts have no jurisdiction outside the US, so that some agreement will be necessary to resolve international disputes. Ironically, many an Avery label has been used on junk mail, so perhaps there is some justice that vanity mailers like email@example.com can get a measure of revenge. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
The direct channel will outstrip the indirect channel in PC shipments by 2001, according to IDC. The analyst group forecast that worldwide sales would be bigger for direct sellers for the first time thanks to changes in distribution and business customers using internal technical staff. The report, part of the IDC's US PC Channel Review and Forecast, 1997-2003, said that direct channels had also been striding ahead with laptop sales. It noted that the success of direct sales, from companies such as Dell, was partly at the expense of the reseller channel. Although both were seeing shipments increasing, the indirect channel's growth rate was well below that of the overall market. Until 2003, shipments through the indirect channel would have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7 per cent, compared with 12 per cent for the overall market, it said. "The traditional value-added resellers that make up the commercial channel are being affected by a fundamental shift in the distribution mode," said Joseph Rigoli, analyst at IDC's emerging consumer and PC channels research programme. "End users are increasingly shifting procurement activity to those that are best at logistical efficiency - direct distributors - while often using in-house technical expertise basic for integration services." The report suggested that the biggest growth rate was likely to come from what it defined as the "other" channel, which IDSC defines as Internet or mail order sales that have no human interaction. This is expected to see shipments show a CAGR of 23 per cent by 2003. ®
Cable company NTL and global advertising agency Leo Burnett are behind the soon-to-be-launched subscription and toll-free ISP Freedomi. A number of industry insiders have already expressed amazement – privately - about NTL's connection, although no one from the Hampshire-based cable company was available at press time to discuss its involvement in the new advertising-led service. But according to the Freedomi Web site, which has been resurrected after being hastily pulled down because of too much press interest, the soon-to-be launched service promises to offer "unlimited free Internet access everyday through [an] 0800 number". Users will also receive shares in the ISP for spending time online and they will receive one hour of "free telephone customer support every day". In a statement posted on the site, Joshua Sayles managing director of Freedom Telecom (the telco behind Freedomi) said: "I sympathise with consumers who are bombarded with 'free' offers only to find that the product isn't free at all and that there is some charge usually hidden away. "It is about time British consumers got a fair deal," he said. The "fair deal" Sayles talks about appears to be to force-feed Net users with ads in return for receiving toll-free access. Paul Dutton, of Screaming.net clone greatxcape.com, which has attracted more than 10,000 users since it launched last week, said the offer sounded very attractive. "But when I phoned up to find out more about it I was told that users would face lots of interruptions from banner ads," he said. Paul Shalet of the X-Stream network -- which pioneered subscription-free access even before Freeserve was an apple in Dixons' eye -- said the service would not appeal to core Net users. "The service is only likely to appeal to the low income market," he said. He claimed many Net users would not tolerate being constantly interrupted by ads. Mike Bernard, marketing director of Freedom Telecom once again refused to reveal any more details about the service. "All will be revealed in the fullness of time," he said. ®
Sources close to Intel have suggested that the Mendocino design, which saved the Celeron from utter oblivion, has 256K cache designed in, not just the 128K cache, as widely advertised. According to the source, Cadence was called in after the original Celeron performed disastrously and designed the Mendocino core. The Intel source, based in Israel, said that the external design was good, but Intel did not want to implement everything all at once. That suggests that Intel may well enable the other 128K of trannies at a time best known to it. No one from either the Intel or Cadence press offices was available at press time. ® There are messages on this topic on our Bulletin Board
Sources close to Cadence US said today that one of its OEMs will release a piece of clever technology that will allow soccer referees to view the last 30 seconds of an incident. According to the source in Cadence US, that will make it easier for fouls or penalties declared by referees to be thought over. Refs will have a full 30 seconds to think about things before the crowd turns nasty. The video technology will hang on a string around a referee's or umpire's neck, and is expected to change the gladiatorial nature of such events. Cadence UK refused to comment on the reports. ®
S3's attempt to buy Diamond Multimedia took a step closer to completion today when the graphics company announced it had been allowed to limit the period it needs to wait before it can put the merger proposal to a shareholders' vote. The US' Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act enforces a waiting period between the statement of two or more companies to merge and the final vote by the companies' shareholders on whether the merger should go ahead. S3's "early termination" -- as the company darkly put it -- now means shareholders will be asked to gather together on 20 September to cast their lot in favour of the motion to merge. The move should allow the merger deal to sneak past a group of Diamond shareholders' attempt to sue Diamond's bosses for agreeing to the deal. The shareholders claim Diamond executives have failed in their statutory duty to maximise their shareholders' stock value -- the merger deal undervalues Diamond stock, they allege. ®
An OEM using Cadence technology said today it is set to release a box that will plug into phone sockets and save international phone bills by using the Internet Protocol. The box will plug straight into normal Bell or BT sockets, but will bypass the telcos by using clever chip technologies to use the IP protocol, it has emerged. If true, the reports, which Cadence UK refuses to comment on, will mean subscribers across the world will be able to bypass normal carriers, such as Sprint and BT. The box will also spell the end to suppliers of cheap international calls, a phenomenon which has been proliferating here in the UK for the last 18 months. No one from BT was available for comment at press time. ®
3Com and Siemens have canned plans for their $100 million joint telephony venture designed for local corporate networks. But the two firms, who originally announced the move in December, said they would continue to work on similar technology. According to reports on US newswires, the two have decided not to go ahead with the joint venture for fear of rising overhead costs that such a project would incur. The two firms announced a deal earlier this year agreeing to jointly market and sell each other's products. They therefore considered the joint venture unnecessary, said a 3Com representative. According to a recent US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the existing strategic alliance between the two: "May consider joint development of voice-related enterprise and carrier solutions." However, it continued: "In light of the current strategic relationship, the two companies will not proceed with a previously announced joint venture." Both parties will benefit from today's announcement, said a 3Com representative, because they could pursue the same goals as before, but avoid the costs involved. The agreement initially involved building telephony products for local area networks, such as corporate offices. The two said they were already making products in the project areas discussed, involving voice, video and data traffic. ®
Korean combine Samsung today pledged to shell out $2.93 billion to ensure the company's dominance of the RAM chip market. The investment plan was announced today by Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee at a South Korean presidential meeting to review how much the nation's five major companies will be pumping into its economy. The meeting reminds us of numerous James Bond flicks in which Spectre regional operatives report to their master how much they are contributing to the organisation's coffers. Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo said his group would record a profit of $1.6 billion this year and $3.3 billion in 2000. LG Group chairman Koo Bon-moo said the group would invest $1.67 billion annually to boost IT sales. Another chairman is believed to have failed to meet expectations and may have been tipped off his booby-trapped conference chair into a vat of piranha fish. Or possibly crocodiles. Meanwhile, Samsung said its decision was based on a projected increase of 20 per cent if demand for PCs and a past increase in demand for semiconductor products of ten per cent. ®
Apple today extended its legal action against eMachines to Japan by firing off a writ against the cut-price PC vendor's Japanese distributor, Sotec. The Mac maker alleges eMachines, and its Korean parents Trigem and Korean Data Systems (KDS), ripped off the design of the iMac for their own consumer computer, the eOne. Last week, it filed a suit intended to block the distribution of the eOne in the US. eMachines, Trigem, KDS and now Sotec certainly have a case to answer. The spec. of the eOne may be different, but we would defy anyone familiar with the consumer computer market not to spot the similarity with the iMac. Just take a look at the machines shown here. The pictures also include Korean company Future Power's allegedly iMac-inspired ePower PC. Sotec defended the eOne with the claim that Apple's action "is not fair". A spokesman said: "We developed the eOne using our own technology." That's not in dispute: what is the final product of that "technology", which, frankly, does look like an iMac, though not as much as Future Power's box. ® Related Stories Apple attacks iMac rip-offs
There are many ways of doing consumer research on the cheap, and posing as a complaints hotline is apparently one of them. US IT research firm, Computer Economics (CE), has set up an online shopping complaint hotline to gather data as part of its research into ecommerce. The company says that the popularity of online shopping is causing problems. Michael Erbschloe, vice president of research at CE, commented: "Cyber crowds contribute to many consumer problems. We expect even heavier traffic this year, which will overload customer service at many Internet sites." Erbschloe warns that a well thought out site is essential as poorly prepared sites will lose customers as traffic volume causes delays. He continues: "When online traffic is heavy, it causes slowdowns and outages for even the largest web sites." Really? We hadn't noticed. The helpline number -- 001 800 326 8100 extension 116 - goes through to an analyst with the company. Out of hours, you get her voicemail. Alternatively, you can email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
Today Microsoft revealed a wealth of consumer products intended for release in the run up to Christmas. The company has produced a range of new hardware and software, ranging from PC gaming add ons, like the Sidewinder Dual Strike control, to reference material, like the new version of Encarta, or Works Suite 2000. On the hardware side, you can look forward to the launches of the following: There are new keyboards due out in October and November 1999. The ergonomically designed version of the Internet Keyboard Pro and the standard Internet Keyboard in October, followed by the traditional style Internet Keyboard Pro a month later. Prices are expected to be £49.99, £24.99 and £39.99 respectively. Designed for the not so serious PC gamers is the Sidewinder control. It is a combination of mouse and keyboard, designed to make it easier to learn first and third person action games - such as Quake or Tombraider. The company is also launching several joysticks that look like pieces of the set from Alien 3. The sidewinder is launching in October at an RRP of £49.99. Microsoft has developed an optical sensor mouse. The Intellimouse explorer has a sensor that scans a surface 1500 times per second, and uses the data - generated by a digital signal processor - to calculate its position. It will also be launched in October 1999, at an RRP of £49.99. On the software side, the products ranged from the silly to the practical and educational. One game featured was Age of Empires II – a smartened up and bigger version of the original game, with new scenarios starting at the fall of the Roman Empire. The AI has been reprogrammed to make playing the computer more difficult, and each enemy army has different characteristics to extend game time, and force more strategic play. Out on 29 October at an RRP of £39.99. In the more immediate future, Microsoft's first version of Link LS Golf games is out this month, as is International Football, Baseball 2000, and the Close Combat Trilogy. These should retail for between £19.99 and £34.99. The Flight Simulator 2000 is scheduled for launch in late November, along with Flight Simulator 2000 Professional Edition. These will sell for £49.99 and £69.99 respectively. Not feeling so frivolous? The new Encarta package - Encarta Reference Suite 2000 - is out at the end of September. The package includes the World English Dictionary, and a £40 rebate on old copies of the product. It is expected to sell at around £99.00, but components - such as the Interactive Atlas or MapPoint 2000 - can be bought separately. And for the truly serious, Microsoft Works Suite 2000. This is due to be launched in October 1999 at around £120. ®
LieA quick ring round of ad sales people in the UK metropolis has revealed how duplicitous marketing, and marchitecture, can be. A series of spoof calls to ad sales people in London, today, seemed to suggest that The Register, like AMD, is a contender, like Ziff Davis -- an Intel lookalike. Said one adsalesperson from Ziff: "Your product is good and your content is good but how can it compete against a company like Ziff Davis, with its level of marketing spend?" Another, from IDG, said: "Everyone is agreed yours is the best in terms of content, but how will you compete with the majors?" VNU salespeople refused to answer calls at press time. But the very suggestion that we are like AMD is very deeply insulting... ®